Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Luxury of a Crush

Having met my last several dates online, and having jumped from one unsuccessful month-long relationship to another since March of 2006, I now find myself in a situation I haven't felt in years. I have a crush on someone I sort-of know.

In the online dating world, the transition from strangers to lovers is so brief (if it is going to happen at all, which it usually doesn't) that you scarcely have time for that stomach-churning internal dialogue. You know the one. It goes like this: "I like him. I want to talk to him. What can I say? Oh my god, did he just flirt with me? Now what can I say back that's witty enough that he might think I'm possibly interested, but not so blatant he thinks I'm a crazy psycho-stalker?" For me, because I'm such a socially awkward introvert, this internal dialogue sometimes seems so loud that I accompany it with a complete removal of eye-contact and banter with the object of my affections. If he were interested, surely, he would have noticed that I was completely ignoring him, and, therefore, going insane inside. Now why did he stop talking to me? Damn.

Anyway, back in college, I had such an abundance of these crushes, that I had to give them nicknames to keep them all straight. Bike boy, who had a bright yellow bike and deep dark eyes. The Package, who just seemed like all around perfection to me. Dirty Dancer because I once bumped and grinded with him to Madonna at a party (and then proceeded to avoid him like the plague ever after. Good technique. And we wonder why I'm still single.). Little did I know, at the time, that this plethora of options was temporary, that as I aged, there would be fewer and fewer opportunities for me to fantasize about conversations I'm too timid to actually have. So that now in my thirties, I can just call my crush just The Crush, because there is only one and the next one might be years away.

And he's probably married anyway - although I did boldly glance at his left hand the other day and found no ring. It took me three months of Saturdays to get that far. Maybe by summer I'll ask him about it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are Our Projects Graded, Yet?

So, the thing I most procrastinate about, the thing I hate doing the most, even more than dishes, is grading a certain project that inertia demands I keep assigning in one of my classes. There's only so much I can read about Halo or the history of Nintendo before I want to tear my hair out by the roots. There are only so many barely-reworded wikipedia plagiarizisms that I care to see before my eyes glaze over and I wonder what it was like back in the good ol' days when students used to steal words from actual well-written encyclopedias.

Here's a tip for my teenage readers: if you're fourteen, it's nearly impossible that you will naturally use constructions like "mark the turnaround of his career" or "not only, but rather". If you type such words into a paper, and your teacher hasn't been lulled into a moronic puddle of drool by the mind-numbingly dull words of your classmates, you will be caught. So stop copying. Besides, you may not believe this because you're fourteen, but you actually do have some unique things to say. I once had a kid describe how to balance on a unicycle. It wasn't Shakespeare (or even Wikipedia), but it was good, detailed writing and I'd never read anything like it before. Why can't you try that? Explain something you know. I'm not looking for Proust. It doesn't matter that you don't know who Proust is. I just want you to create something of your own, so when you look back at it years later, you see only your own work. OK?

Anyway, I have nine left to grade. Nine out of thirty. Which reduces to three out of ten. Only 30% left to grade. I could have begun to grade one of them in the time it took me to calculate that percent, but I didn't. Nope.

The kids - who say the darndest things - said, "Why aren't they graded, yet? Did you have some personal turmoil in your life?" Yes. I confessed. I did. Turmoil they are too young to imagine.

"You procrastinated, didn't you?" they said. Yes. I confessed. I did.

"It's OK, we understand about procrastinating," they said, and I felt like the World's Worst Teacher for leading them by example towards an entire lifetime of wishing you had only done your work when you were supposed to, so you would never again have to look at a class full of innocent children and tell them that you still hadn't graded their endless stack of dull, plagiarized projects.

Nine more to go. Seventy percent complete. That's a C-. Isn't that good enough? Can I stop now?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In the Belly of the Beast Looking for Coffee

If you're me, and you get nervous around pushy strangers, you spend your whole life avoiding Mormons. You learn to recognize them from the earnest way they wear their Jansport backpacks securely fastened over both shoulders, the straps somehow barely wrinkling their freshly pressed white dress shirts, and their ties swinging between their arms as they bike through the Philips neighborhood looking for converts. They travel in pairs, being all freshly scrubbed - the whitest, youngest, most earnest men in the neighborhood. And I, uncomfortable around all that cleanliness and conviction, cross the street when I see them, avoiding both their intense eye-contact and their pamphlets.

And so it's all kinds of odd to find myself in Salt Lake City, the whole town scrubbed clean, the streets wide and orderly, the lights gently whistling at me when it's safe to cross the street, a subtle reminder painted in the street at my feet, telling me to look both ways. There are even bright orange flags in cups at crosswalks, so you can carry them with you when you step into traffic, and leave them on the other side when you make it safely across. It makes me worry even more about those fresh-scrubbed biker Mormans in Philips. Minneapolis must seem like the Most Dangerous Place on Earth to someone used to a town built to protect you from traffic and from the whole wide world.

Anyway, I'm here, and I'm me, so I need coffee and the Internet. All of this orderliness makes me long for the chaos of the World Wide Web. It would drive me to porn if I were the type. It's not the easiest task in the world to find a coffee shop among all of these clean-living people, and my first route took me to a plaza owned by the Mormon church. So there I was, after spending my whole life avoiding the Mormons, walking right onto their sacred ground. Would I have to stare at my feet the whole time in order to avoid being converted? No, it turns out, because, at least on Saturday morning at 9:00, the place is deserted, quiet, like a museum. I see one man in a tie and jacket, and because I am in his land, I make a point of smiling at him and meeting his eyes. I figure as I do so, that really, the safest place on Earth from an attempted Mormon-conversion might be here, at their very doorstep. As far as he knows, I am already saved. There's something freeing about it. Here, at least, I don't have to avoid those poor clean boys and their convictions.

And, besides, after I passed safely out of the Mormon sanctuary I found myself on a street (wide and very well-regulated) that looked promising for what I really needed - coffee and at least the knowledge that there is always something unseemly and unsafe just a click away.